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Story by Enrique Soto

"Well my father started in the 60's racing an AutoUnion DKW, VW beetle and various renault. Soon after he moved to formula fords, formulas vees, formula atlantic and got to formula2 which use to be previos formula one but there was no money to keep going up the ladder. At the same time he raced GT cars and rally cars. His forst IMSA race was the 1978 24 hours of Daytona in which he rented a porsche 911 GTU class. He won the 24 but when it came time for inspection the owner of the car didnt let imsa open up the engine because he had built an illegal engine. It was 65cc over the limit and thus the car got DQ. Redemption came at the 78 12 hours of sebring in the same porsche 911 but this time with another victory and with a legal engine. For 1979 My dad and his partner and prep guy Hector Huerta bought a RSR spec porsche 911 and had lmited succes with only 2 top tens and one DNF in 3 races that year. 1980 came the big assault for the World Endurance Championship. It started with the 1980 Daytona 24 whic he shared driving duties with Chip Gannasi and Francisco Romero. They started in 37 position and by the 9th hour they were in 6 place overall and second in class (AMAZING) but then mishap and by the 14th hour they were in 28th place overall and then the comeback, they climbed up the charts to13th overall and third in class. Not a bad start to the year.

For sebring 1980 the primary car broke after 35 laps and in second place runnig right behind the group44 TR8 so my dad made a deal with Luis Mendez to co drive the 68 car and they finished second in class. 6th place at road atlanta and then another second place at riverside. So far for the World Endurace Championship he had a third and two second place finishes. LAgunaSeca came with a DNF and i believe he was hit from behind by a 935 and flipped several times but i cannot seem to find any records or photos of that. Went to Lemans 1980 with ZW Enterprises Mazda RX7 whcih was the slowest car in the Mulsanne straight but recorded the second fastes sector time in the porsche esses. Finishes 21 OA and 7th in IMSA class. Came back from Europe and the remaining 3 IMSA race he recorded all third place finishes and i believe a third or a fourth place in the World Endurance Championship. For 1981 there was an attempt of a 4 car team ( three RX7 and one GTP Mazda) with European Universities sponsor along with the team of ZW Enterprises) but that didn't work out and after mid season my dad went with T&R racing for the following few seasons teaming up for the long distance races with Tico Almeida and my godfather Rene Rodriguez, with some good results driving an RSR, Holman Moody Mustang and later on the Greenwood corvette. At some point in the 80's my dad had some sort of an IMSA record of top ten finishes. second place at the 82 Daytona 24, near the end of the race my dad was the ace of the drivers and could run down the factory RX7 but they decided to take it easy on the RSR and take the second place finish. Won the riverside 6 hours that year and a second place at mosport 6 hours. Acording the records that IMSA sent me he also won the 1983 Daytona Revere in a Mustang.

For 1983 he got invited to do the Interamerican Invitational in the MiamiGP with stock Mazda RX7 with big names in the field. Drivers like Andretti, Holbert, Sneava, Rahal, Fittipaldi, Fangio and my father got a 6 place finish and alot of fun. By the third lap there were no more brakes on the car and he used the hand brake and drifted through the corners. For the 83 miami GP it rained for the GTO race and my dad went without a ride but a friend of his didnt want to race in the rain so he gave the car to my dad and from a 25th starting position he went on to finish 6th in an aging and underpowered RSR but rain is the great equalizer as they say and my dad was known for being a great rain driver. in 83 he drove the great 935 but with a DNF at sebring and 9th at road atlanta. He cut back on the schedule even more for the remaider of the 80's doing selected races like the Miami GP with a greenwood vette.

I remember 1984, he started nearly last and withing 3 laps he was in the top 5 but the brakes failed and DNF (at the time the vette had an aluminum 454 and about 800 HP). Same thing in 1985 DNF at Miami GP. For 1986 he got invited to race at Daytona 24 with porsche powred Royale GTPL and he ended up doing about 14 hours of tha race becasue the other drivers got sick and some didnt want to drive at night. I remember him telling me that near the end of the race he saw Holberts 962 coming up behind him coming into the bustop and my dad with no brakes on the car, had to take it into the grass not to wrek the Lowenbrau 962 which won the race. He fiishes second in class at the 24. For the 86 Miami GP we had the corvette again (which was built in 78 for John Paul Sr) and were up to 6th place and a certain top 5 finish but we los 5th gear and finished in 14th place. We had the car sitting in our garage and the week of the west plam beach GP he decided to go race. The crew was me( i was 14) my brother (18) and an old friend, that was it. . . the four of us took the vette to West Palm and we had problems with fuel pump which were resolved for the race but the few good laps he got in practice he said he ran with the Dingman Brothers Pontiac par to par so the car still had good stuff (now with a chevy 350) unfortunately DNF the race and did one more GTPL in 86 and that was the last IMSA race he ever did.

He did some racing in Venezuela in the early 90's and unfortunately passed away in a freak highway accident in 1995. He was a great endurance racer, a great rain driver and gone too early in life. Some memories that stick out in my head is watching him at nearl 200 MPH in a 935 at sebring, the Miami intercontinental RX7s where he beat Tom Sneva, Fittipaldi and Eliseo Salazar, watching him climb near to the top 5 at the Miami GP, waking up in the morning of a 24 hour race and seeing his number on the tower. He told me that when he was in Europe, Tom Walkinshaw approached him and asked him to drive his cars. Unfortunalte he already had a contract with the Bastos Team and could not. I always wonder what would have happend had he driven for Tom Walkinshaw. He also got invited to race indy cars for Chip Ganassi but due to work comitments he could not. He raced all over Europe on the famous tracks like SIlverstone and the long course of the Nordschleife. Certainly not bad for a privateer with almost no sponsorship. The records speak for itself 3 victories, 15 top 5's, 24 top ten finishes from 35 IMSA races and ofcource that one DQ at the 24."


Ernesto Soto at Sebring 1980.